TOPEKA — A Kansas nurse known as the “Angel of the Yukon” has been inducted into the Alaska Women's Hall of Fame for her work during the 1925 diphtheria epidemic in Alaska.
Emily Morgan, born March 7, 1878, in Leon, walked in sub-zero temperatures to inoculate residents of Nome, Alaska, to stop the spread of the deadly disease in the region.
“She has a long history up here,” author-historian Steve Levi of Anchorage said.
While he was researching another project, Levi said, he came across an article about Morgan and contacted the Kansas Historical Society to learn more about her. He said he was so impressed with Morgan's accomplishments he contacted Bonnie Jack, treasurer and public relations coordinator for the Alaska Women's Hall of Fame, and nominated her for the honor.
Jack said the Alaska Women's Hall of Fame, which is a solely virtual entity, includes more than 100 women from around the world who helped make Alaska what it is today. To be eligible for the Hall of Fame, nominees must be deceased or 65 years or older by Nov. 1.
Morgan and 14 other women were inducted into the Hall of Fame on Feb. 28. Levi said he accepted the award for Morgan because she has no known relatives.
Morgan became the first public health nurse in Wichita, and in 1923 the American Red Cross assigned her to work as a public health nurse in Nome. Two years later, she was responsible for administering the serum that was brought to Nome via the famous Iditarod Serum Run during the diphtheria epidemic.
Her work, which included walking to surrounding villages to inoculate residents, stopped the disease's spread in the region.
“Morgan performed her job in Nome under the harshest of conditions – an epidemic in a rural Alaska village, a race to bring serum by dogsled delayed by blizzards, rising numbers of diphtheria cases and a serum that then had to be safely unfrozen before it could be used with patients,” the biographical summary compiled by the Hall of Fame states.
After the epidemic subsided, Morgan returned to Wichita to resume her Red Cross career but often returned to Alaska to care for the sick. She died in May 1960 in El Dorado at age 82.